Virtual agents: If you can’t beat them, join them

Virtual agents: If you can’t beat them, join them | Insurance Business America

Virtual agents: If you can’t beat them, join them
Since the release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, artificial intelligence has been the subject of awe and amazement thanks to Kubrick’s HAL sentient computer, which has become the A.I. standard for cinema ever since.

A.I has made its way into our daily lives (thanks, Siri), and it has encroached into everyday business sectors. In insurance, virtual agents have becoming increasingly popular, raising concerns from independent agents about how this technology will impact their business. Ranging from artificial intelligence to individuals at call centers handling leads over the internet, these virtual agents are making a splash with consumers for their easy and convenient service.

Laird Rixford, president of Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC) in Carrollton, TX, says that independent agents need to look at what’s driving virtual agents in order to harness their ability to their advantage.

“Insurance agents and agencies around the nation need to embrace technology, or take a look at their current technology, in order to not pigeonhole themselves into a certain system that might not meet all their needs and might not be able to transact business in a virtual space,” says Rixford.

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Although virtual agents are increasing in prevalence, Rixford reminds us that they do not fully replace the role of the independent agent. Powered by A.I or non-licensed individuals, licensed agents and brokers still play a pivotal role in the end of these virtual conversations. However, that doesn’t mean independent agents should sit back and relax while this technology continues to boom.

“In the end, you are not able to buy insurance from a non-licensed agent or broker,” he says. “Agents and brokers can directly compete with virtual agents as long as they offer the same methods of communication because in the end there is still a licensed professional agent behind the virtual one.”

This is where agents can take it a step further, Rixford says, by providing the full-agent experience via a virtual medium.

“Virtual agents are not able to offer the knowledge, history and understanding of the insurance market, and ultimately, the sales pitch in the end,” he continues. “Agents and brokers can bring their experience, knowledge and ability to transact policies virtually – that’s how they can not only compete, but actually grow above and beyond what virtual agents are doing.”

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